Quit Smoking – Getting to the Heart of the Matter

Thursday, November 15, 2012 12:02 PM comments (0)

Smoking is an unhealthy habit that can be hard to break. While we’ve all heard of the many ways quitting can be made possible—cold turkey, medications, nicotine patches and gum, or therapy—it often comes down to one’s determination and ability to make changes.

It is important to understand that it is never too late to quit smoking. Even if you’ve tried to quit before and haven’t accomplished it, you can still find success quitting in the future. Stacy Raviv, MD, a NorthShore pulmonologist, gives her insight on how quitting can improve your health:

  • Decrease risk of cancer. Smoking is one of the leading causes of cancer. Quitting can help greatly reduce your risk of getting lung and other cancers.
  • Limit loss of lung function, reduce cough and shortness of breath. Smoking greatly impacts your respiratory system. Quitting may make it easier to breath, exercise and stay active.  It may also prevent progressive worsening of one’s breathing over time.
  • Improve bothersome asthma and allergies. If you are a smoker and suffer from asthma or allergies, you may notice a significant change in your symptoms once you quit smoking. Smoke is often considered an irritant and trigger of allergy and asthma symptoms.
  • Decrease blood pressure. Smoking can impact your heart and blood vessels, causing elevated blood pressure and an increased heart rate. These factors can lead to other heart problems, including heart disease and atherosclerosis.
  • Decrease your risk for heart attack and stroke. While most smokers do not actually develop lung cancer or even emphysema, heart attacks and strokes are very common diseases made even more common by smoking.
  • Stay alive and healthy for those you care about. They will thank you for it.

Have you tried to quit smoking? What methods worked for you? What didn’t?

Salt – When Too Much is Too Much

Monday, November 12, 2012 2:11 PM comments (0)

A dash of salt here and there for flavoring can’t hurt, right? While moderate amounts of sodium in your daily diet are fine, it’s often easy to eat more than necessary. Look on any label – especially those of pre-packaged and more-processed foods—and sodium is almost certain to be one of the ingredients.

The American Heart Association recommends 2,300 mg daily as the highest daily acceptable level, and if you are over 51 years, African American or have heart disease including high blood pressure, the recommendation is 1,500 mg.

Too much salt can lead to health problems, including cardiovascular disease particularly hypertension. For this reason, it’s never a bad idea to learn some quick ways to pass on the salt.

Mary Bennett, Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator at NorthShore, offers the following tips to help reduce your daily sodium intake:

  • Read the label. Before purchasing and consuming food, read the label. If the total sodium value on the label is more than 5% of the recommended daily value of sodium, you may want to reconsider purchasing or at least limit your portion size.
  • Pass on passing the salt shaker. Maybe the easiest way to avoid eating too much salt is to not have the shaker on the table during mealtimes. If you are looking to add additional flavors to a dish, use herbs and spices. There are also sodium-free mixes available that can provide lots of flavor without the sodium.
  • Eat in, not out. More often than not when you eat out – especially at fast food restaurants—more sodium will be added than what you would typically use at home. The best way to reduce your salt intake when you’re out to eat is to avoid adding additional garnishes (pickles, ketchup, mayonnaise, mustard, etc.) to your meal and to watch your portion size.
  • Opt for the low- or reduced-sodium choices at the grocery store. If you can, choose natural ingredients and skip the frozen, processed and packaged food options.

What do you do to limit your sodium consumption? What is one salty food you couldn’t live without?

Irregular Periods – Understanding Inconsistent Menstrual Cycles

Tuesday, November 06, 2012 3:46 PM comments (0)

At one time or another, most women experience an irregular menstrual cycle. While regular for some women may be every four weeks, the length between cycles will vary between individuals. However, most women get their period every 21-35 days.

Inconsistency often isn’t something to cause concern. In most cases it is due to a hormonal imbalance, which can be normalized with medication, such as birth control.

Sangeeta Senapati, MD, Endoscopic Surgeon at NorthShore, shares some of the causes of irregular menstrual cycles:

  • Stress. Being anxious and tense can impact your hormones, thereby affecting your cycle.
  • Medication. Depending on the types of medications you are on, your cycle may be impacted. If you recently began using birth control or have switched this medication, it is also not uncommon for your cycle to change in frequency, flow and length.
  • Tobacco and alcohol use. Cigarette smoking can cause a shortening of your menstrual cycle.  Women who smoke are also more likely to have painful periods.  Alcohol can disrupt the menstrual cycle and prevent a woman from ovulating. This may mean delayed or skipped menses.
  • Excessive exercise. Those training for endurance sports (such as marathons) often experience missed periods or loss of menses entirely. This may occur due to decrease in body fat and overall increase in the body’s stress level, which causes a hormonal imbalance.
  • Change in weight – through a weight gain or loss. A decrease in body fat below 15% may lead to a decrease in female hormones, which can cause delay and loss of menstruation. Obesity may lead to menstrual problems as well causing women to have fewer menses than normal. Women who are overweight may also have longer and heavier menses due to the excess estrogen that is associated with weight gain.
  • Diet. Poor nutrition – either due to an eating disorder or not – can cause women to skip cycles. Diets high in carbohydrates may also impact menstruation.
  • Pregnancy. It is important to remember that you can still become pregnant even if you are not menstruating regularly.
  • Onset of menopause. Menopause has officially occurred when it has been 12 months since your last menstrual period. The average age of menopause is 51-52. The perimenopausal period often begins in a woman’s 40’s. Some signs of the perimenopausal period may include irregular menses, hot flashes/night sweats, vaginal dryness and sleep disturbances.

If you experience consistently irregular menstrual cycles it may be worthwhile to consult your physician.

Have you ever had an irregular period?

Enjoy the Music, Skip the Hearing Loss

Friday, November 02, 2012 10:41 AM comments (0)

Our ears are sensitive – a single loud blast (such as a gunshot or explosion) or repetitive exposure to loud noises can cause temporary or permanent hearing loss. It’s important to learn what sound levels are healthy to reduce impact on your hearing. While there’s ongoing debate about the harm of frequent use of MP3 players, the effect on one’s hearing is still unknown.

That said, there are some things you can do to help prevent hearing loss. Michael J. Shinners, MD, a fellowship-trained specialist in otology/neurotology and NorthShore physician provides his insight on protecting your hearing:

  • Most people generally listen to personal music players at an acceptable volume. However, a good rule of thumb is this: If you can hear what song someone is listening to on their headphones, chances are it’s too loud.
  • If you enjoy live music and concerts, a good option for limiting damage to your inner ear is to purchase foam and/or custom-made earplugs. Custom-made earplugs will lower the volume without distorting the sound.
  • Hearing loss may take years to show up, so it’s very important to adopt good habits and protect your ears earlier than later.
  • If you are exposed to sound levels over 85 decibels at work, you must be offered hearing protection and regular testing to prevent hearing damage. This is according to Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidelines.

What do you do to protect your hearing? Have you ever noticed a change in your hearing from being exposed to a loud sound (blast or music)?

Fruit Juice – A Healthy Substitute for Your Kids or Not?

Wednesday, October 31, 2012 11:17 AM comments (0)

Many juices are advertised as being nutritious, and kids love juice, so parents happily provide it, believing it is a healthy choice. However, juice does not provide the same nutrition as a piece of whole fruit, and has been linked to obesity and tooth decay.  Juice should be given in moderation and should not be thought of as a substitute for healthier choices like whole fruit, milk or water.

If you choose to give your child juice, Sara Wiemer, MD, Pediatrician at NorthShore, offers the following suggestions for maximizing its nutritional value:

  • Read labels carefully. Many juices are high in calories and sugar, and low in nutritional value – no better than a can of soda!  Avoid juice from concentrate and juice with a lot of additives.
  • Opt for a serving of fruit instead of juice whenever possible. If this isn’t possible, try to select a 100% fruit juice with pulp. While 100% fruit juice does provide some of the vitamins and nutrients present in the fruit itself, it often lacks fiber and other nutrients,  and can have unhealthy additives.
  • Use a cup, not a bottle, when giving juice to small children and restrict its use to meal or snack times. If a child is “nursing” a bottle of juice over a long period of time, or falls asleep with it in the mouth, the sugars sit on the teeth and will lead to tooth decay.
  • Juice is filling and decreases your child’s appetite for more nutritional foods – be sure to offer healthier choices first.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the following servings of juice:

  • Under six months – Not recommended
  • Ages one to six years– No more than 4 to 6 ounces are recommended per day
  • Ages seven to eighteen years – Limit juice to 8 to 12 ounces per day

 

Itchy Scalp – Could It Be Lice?

Monday, October 29, 2012 3:24 PM comments (0)

If you’ve had young children, you’ve probably received a note from their teachers or administrators saying that there has been an outbreak of lice at school. Head lice are a very common problem for preschool, kindergarten and elementary students. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate 6-12 million infestations occur a year among children ages 3-11.

While typically not known for spreading disease, these parasites can be a nuisance to identify, treat and exterminate. Felissa Kreindler, MD, shares her insight on warning signs for detecting and treating head lice:

 

 

  • Avoid close head-to-head contact whenever possible. This can be done by not sharing hats, personal clothing and hair items, combs and brushes.
  • Stay clear of areas that have recently been infected. Don’t sit on couches and chairs that have been in close contact with someone who has recently had lice. Also be mindful of pillows, blankets, bedding , towels and other items that may have been exposed.
  • Know the symptoms of lice. These include: itching, sores on the head and feelings of something moving through the hair on the head. Combing through your or your child’s hair with a fine- toothed comb may help identify them.
  • Treat the person and the living area. It’s very important not just to treat the person with lice –this can be done with various over-the-counter treatments—but also the areas and items that this person has been in contact with, such as  clothing , bedding and towels listed above. Family members and others should also check for lice and follow similar treatment methods, if needed.

Have you or your kids ever had lice? What did you do to get rid of them?

Guest Post: Melissa Dobbins, MS, RD, CDE – Controlling Your Sweet Tooth over the Holidays

Friday, October 26, 2012 11:41 AM comments (0)

With Halloween “creeping” up and followed closely by Thanksgiving and Christmas, there are a lot of treats to contend with. 

Here are the strategies that seem to work best for my family:

  1. Give your will power a break: Avoid temptation by not keeping your favorite sweets around the house.  I know I can’t have chocolate around the house without overindulging, so I buy other types of candy for trick or treating (because you know you’re going to sneak into that stash, right?)
  2. Have your cake and eat it too: Don’t try to avoid sweets altogether (or expect your children to) – that will just set you up to binge and feel bad.  Plan for small indulgences throughout the week.  This way you can incorporate the treats into a well-balanced diet and when you “cheat” you won’t feel like you failed and end up throwing your healthy diet out the window.
  3. Play favorites: Be choosy about your choices and don’t have dessert just because it’s there.  I don’t have weaknesses for pie or ice cream, but watch out if there are brownies around!  Save your calories for what you really want or take the opportunity to have a small serving.  It’s not that difficult if you remind yourself there are so many more ‘sweet’ opportunities around the corner.

Choosing a Doctor – What You Need to Know

Wednesday, October 24, 2012 9:32 AM comments (0)

While the options may seem endless, selecting your primary care physician—typically a doctor who practices Family Medicine, Internal Medicine or General Practice—may be one of the most important health decisions you can make. Not only will you build a relationship with this physician over time, but he or she can provide you with preventive care that may help improve your overall health.

Everyone may have different preferences when it comes to choosing a doctor. Similar to hiring for fit, selecting your primary care physician can be a similar task. One thing to keep in mind: It’s best to choose a physician before you need one, this way you can build a relationship and share your health history without having to rush to a decision.

John Revis, MD, Internal Medicine physician at NorthShore, provides some quick tips on what to consider when selecting your primary care physician:

  • Location – Make sure you select a physician that is in a close or convenient location. Based on your lifestyle this may mean selecting a doctor either close to home or to work. You may also want to consider what walk-in, extended and weekend hours are offered. After all, not all trips to the doctor are planned.
  • Referrals from others – Ask your friends, family members and neighbors for their insight on physicians. Feel free to do the same with other healthcare providers you’ve had appointments with and seen in the past.
  • Experience and education – If you have a specific health condition, you may want to consider choosing a physician that has experience and expertise in this field. You may also want to determine what other physicians and specialists your doctor has connections with, either at their office or nearby hospitals.
  • Fit and Personality – Choose a physician that makes you feel comfortable and at ease. It’s important to find a physician whose personal style and patient approach best matches your expectations. If you prefer a female versus a male physician, or someone who speaks a particular language, these are important considerations, too.


How long have you had your primary care physician? What qualities do you look for in a doctor?

Safe Infant Sleeping & Preventing SIDS

Friday, October 19, 2012 11:46 AM comments (0)

It can often be a relief when you finally get your infant down to sleep for the night (or even just a couple of hours!). A parent's worst nightmare is learning that your baby stopped breathing in his or her sleep. 

Although rare, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) can happen even when all the right safety measures are practiced. The exact cause of SIDS is unknown and there often isn't much that can be done in advance to avoid it. SIDS is most common in infants less than six months of age.

Even though there may not be much that can be done to avoid SIDS, it is important for parents and caregivers to practice bedroom safety measures to reduce the odds of other injuries or problems. William MacKendrick, MD, Neonatologist at NorthShore, provides the following recommendations for putting an infant to bed safely:

  • Place your baby on his or her back in the crib.
  • Use a firm mattress and don't place anything other than your infant in the crib. All toys, sheets, blankets, pillows and other materials should stay out of the crib as they can be unsafe and hazardous. Crib bumpers are also not recommended.
  • Keep your baby away from smoke. If you smoke, don't do so in the house or car. Fumes from smoking can increase a baby's risk for breathing problems.
  • Avoid co-sleeping (sleeping in the same bed) with your infant.

How do you promote safe sleeping conditions for your baby?

Yoga – More Than Just Stretching and Flexibility

Wednesday, October 17, 2012 4:57 PM comments (0)

Do Downward-Facing Dog, Plank, Warrior I and Child’s Pose sound familiar? While you’ve probably heard of at least one of these popular yoga poses, maybe you’ve even done a few of them yourself.

Yoga—originating in India—is a practice that has been around for centuries. Yoga is a vast body of knowledge which includes physical exercise done through the practice of yoga poses, breathing exercises to calm the nervous system, meditation practices to focus the mind, dietary practices to detoxify the body, herbal oil massages to nourish the skin, philosophy for living a peaceful life and the Science of Ayurveda (The Indian Medical System which includes Ayurvedic Acupuncture, Ayurvedic Herbs and Ayurvedic Massage Therapies). Yoga is an entire system of self-care and self-realization which was one of the first paradigms of Energy Medicine known to man.

Hatha Yoga is a type of exercise, that when done correctly, can be good for people of all ages and physical abilities. Polly Liontis, Yoga Instructor (Certified by the Himalayan Institute and a Licensed Massage Therapist/LMT), identifies some of the health benefits of practicing yoga:

  • Helps balance the nervous system. Something which distinguishes yoga from any other form of physical exercise is that the movement is always coordinated with the breath. Moving the body through yoga poses while practicing deep diaphragmatic breathing allows the body to oxygenate the blood and muscles and keeps the mind focused on the coordination of the movement with the breath. This calms the mind and moves the body out of the stress response.
  • Builds strength and increases flexibility. Many yoga poses require you to bear your own body weight in different positions for various periods of time which builds bone and muscle strength. Also, many poses focus on developing and using core muscle groups and enhancing your range of motion. These poses increase both strength and flexibility within and around the spine and improve your posture.
  • Alleviates stress and relaxes the body.  An entire branch of yoga is dedicated to breathing exercises, many of which engage the parasympathetic nervous system and naturally slow the heart rate, lower the blood pressure and bring the entire nervous system to a deep state of relaxation by inducing a profound relaxation response in the body. This enables us to take the body out of the “fight or flight” response.
  • Calms the mind. Meditation is another branch of yoga that teaches many different ways to focus the mind, calm the breath and systematically relax the body. This induces a deep state of relaxation and takes the body out of the “stress response.”
  • Improves the quality of your sleep. The regular practice of yoga has also been shown to help you sleep better and reduce insomnia by calming the nervous system.


Have you ever practiced yoga? What are some of your favorite poses?

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